Category Archives: rambling

Stuff it

Seriously, all I want is my stuff back, finish a few projects and go home. Sounds simple, right? Especially the getting my stuff back part. Apparently not so.

I stored 4 prints and 10 A2 sized framed images at Museum Gallery in Cape Town at the end of 2010, with the promise to get them back when I was next in town.  I was part of their opening show ‘The New Landscape’ and had a good working relationship with them. I blogged about the show here. When I left CT,  I asked if I could store some of my work at the gallery while I was in Europe. They said yes, no problem. Fast forward 15 months. I am back. And I have been *trying* to get my work back since April 5th and obviously still haven’t got it.

First thing I did was to simply go to the gallery. There was no one there. In fact, half the gallery seems to have been closed. So I wrote an email instead, asking for an appointment to come fetch my prints & frames. I got a swift reply from the owner/manager saying that he was out of town but would look for it and get back to me. That’s cool. I did not hear from him again. So I sent an email. And another one and another one. And, in fact, another one. I phoned and left a voicemail message. Finally an email reply. He was on holiday, but he would get back to me a.s.a.p. “Asap” again eh. I am sensing a theme here.

coyrightkvz

Nothing happens. I phone again, I email again. I went down there again. We speak on the phone, again. I offer to come help look for the prints. “No no, you don’t want to be down there”. He will look for it, and will get back to me tomorrow morning, or this afternoon or when ever.

Anyway, you get the idea. There is always an excuse; he’s out of town, the electricity is out and he can’t see anything, they are taking down one exhibition and building the next but once that’s done, sure ‘I’ll get to the archive’. Best of all was when he suggested it was my fault because it took me more than a year. What are we, in high school?

You are running a business, I made a deal with you guys that it was ok to store my stuff there, now I want it back. All you have to do is set up an appointment and keep your word. I am not your ex-girlfriend asking for an old t-shirt back. This is my work and frankly, returning it is your work.

Anyway, you get the idea. I am being strung along, given the run around, lied to. But I still want my work back.
And this sucks.

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The Rambling Life Fantastic

“You see, I have a strange serendipitous relationship with Hot Water, but I don’t think they actually know this. Looking back it seems that I always see them around the time of changes in my life.”

Those are my words, written when I interviewed Donovan Copley for Portfolio Collection’s Travel Blog nearly two years ago (full interview here: Talking To Hot Water – Connecting The Dots Through Life And Music). Strangely and amazingly enough, those words are still true. I saw them perform in The Hague this past weekend and it occurred to me that once again, decision-making and the changes that come with that, are on the horizon. Self-inflicted deadlines and self-inflicted limits between failure or success. Why do we do that? How does it happen that one loses faith when first you had the conviction to that what you felt and thought were right? It’s easy to point the finger at others, blaming them for messing with your head, while in fact those voices have always been there and it never stopped you before. Not making decisions has a paralyzing effect on me. I do know that there is only one way back from to and that is to get back on the proverbial horse. I hope it rears up and gallops straight into the fields of possibility.

In case you were wondering about the Hot Water gig last Saturday, it was awesome as always. The band consisted of Donovan Copley (vocals, guitar), Ronan Skillen (didgeridoo, various drums), Andre Schwartz (drums), Soubry Makupula (back up vocals) and I am ashamed to say I don’t know the bass players name. They played, roughly, for an hour and half with songs from their 3 albums. During one of their new songs ‘Lekker Sakkie’ they invited people to come up on stage for a dance contest, a “langarm” dance contest at that. Unsurprisingly, there were not many people in the house who knew what “langarm” was, in fact there was only one couple, a guy from P.E. and is girlfriend. Not surprisingly:)

I hadn’t seen them perform in over a year, and it was cool hearing some new songs as well as a Bob Dylan cover, watching Soubry dress up as a woman and Donovan climbing up onto the rafters during the encore ‘Tribal Man’.

Climbing up onto the rafters… to get a new perspective on things, perhaps? See, I told you I always seem to meet them when the times are a changing. Soon, I’ll be wearing shades:)


The photos photos were taken on Red Hill, just outside Simon’s Town, on a cold winter’s day. The title comes in part  from the Man Man song ‘Life Fantastic”

Towards the end of summer

How do you know when it is time to push through just a little bit longer or to face facts and say this isn’t working? Where’s the line separating determination, knowing what you want and faith in your own ability from plain stupidity? If you know, let me know cause I sure as hell don’t know anymore.

I have got emails to editors, submissions to magazines, introductions letters, entries to competitions, tweets, likes.. you name it, coming out of my ears. I do get published, and I do have work coming in, but I am still not making a well enough living.
Non of the online magazines I have submitted work to, pay for the content you provide. Yes, it’s cool to be published but I also like to get paid. And yes, it is my choice to enter my work in the first place. The thing is, that I feel that something is wrong in this whole set up. To illustrate my point, consider the following.
I personally believe that in order to create a high quality and healthy online culture business, magazines should pay  journalists and photographers for the work they do, and magazines should be paid via subscriptions and through selling ads.
Yet, I just came across an online photography magazine that charges photographers $35 to submit their work to that magazine. Wait a sec.. you are charging me to provide you with free content for your magazine? That is wrong. Isn’t that kind of like biting the hand that feeds you? OK, fair enough, the one that feeds you are the readers buying your magazines and the money you make from the ads on the site, but you can not charge the one who provides you with content. And you do not pay them in return when you do publish their work. Boo..
To be continued.. I need coffee.

Jail La La

Two videos, just because it’s Friday. The first is by the Dum Dum Girls. I remember sitting in my Woodstock kitchen last year, editing pics to this song. That worked well. Somehow, the song and monochrome video make me want to more music shoots. Wandering the streets with some band looking for cool places to shoot is a very, very good way to spend one’s day.

The other is a video by the Foals. I was going to post ‘Olympic Airways’ but ended up with ‘Spanish Sahara’ instead. The first has some really nice grading in some places though… I simply liked the latter song better.

For no specific reason I have ‘Der Himmel über Berlin’ on my mind. No, not that dreadful remake starring Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan, but the original Wim Wenders movie. That movie where they mix up color and monochrome sequences to indicate a human’s point of view vs that of the angels, featuring Bruno Ganz and The Birthday Party. That movie. The cinematographer was 77 year-old Henri Alekan, who apparently used a very old and fragile silk stocking that had belonged to his grandmother as a filter for the those sequences. I’ve been told that photographer Anton Corbijn used a similar trick in the early days. I tried it a couple of times as well but never quite got the same effect, maybe because I attached the stocking to the enlarger in the dark room, perhaps one is supposed to pull it over the lens. I don’t know.

I think being a cinematographer must be wonderful. Thinking in moving images instead of stills seems interesting and challenging. Making sure all frames are good is very different than shooting singles. It’s also a very different way of telling stories, one that is becoming more and more important for photographers to add to their portfolio. Fortunately for me, opportunities to learn all about film making are shimmering in the distance, like hot tar on a desolate American High Way. Best thing is, that opportunity is real and not fading in said distance as a trip to the South of France which seems to be falling apart at the seems at the moment, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Both bands, btw, are signed to American label Sub Pop. Yes, the label from Seattle. Seattle, the city where I once spent a very happy and hazy week of just hanging out, drinking local beers and watching local bands. It’s time to get back into the swing of shooting bands. I have 6 lined up already. In South Africa. I just need to get there. Can’t be that hard. Have a great weekend all.

Confessions of a day dream believer

I’m feeling rather jealous:) I’m jealous of Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen who’ll be trawling along the Pan-American Highway while doing a photography project, for the next 40 weeks. 40 weeks! Nice:) I’m jealous of the friend who’s sailing the oceans. Jealous of the one who just grabs his things and goes. On the other hand, I am also jealous of the friends who are simply happy at home.
The idea was to start in Alaska somewhere and make my way down to Terra del Fuego. The idea was to take pictures along the way while stopping in the smallest of places as well as the exciting big cities. The idea was to go by car. The idea was to go with a boy. A beautiful, exciting boy who would make me laugh. And to just travel travel travel. To disappear a little, only to emerge with an amazing amount of visuals and stories.

Kadir van Lohuizen is an amazing photographer and one of my favorite contemporary photographers. A sailor before he became a photographer, Kadir has covered wars across Africa and South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy from 1990-1994, published a very cool book about the diamond industry way before Blood Diamond came out and established the Noor agency with several other photographers in 2007.


(copyright by Kadir van Lohuizen)
‘Diamond Matters’ won the Kees Scherer Prize for best photo book in 2006. The book basically follows a diamond’s life. Starting in the mines of Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it shows hard work and poverty. From then on it moves to Antwerp to the rough diamond exchange market and to Surat in India through which  70-80% of the world’s diamond production passes through to be polished. A 13-year-old boy works 12 hours a day in one of those polishing centres. He gets to see his parents once a year. The book ends with a jewellery store on 5th Avenue in New York as well as a jet-setting party in London.It’s an amazing book, not just because of the photography but the designers also did a fabulous job. One cover is made out of faux velvet, the other is a rough cardboard-like paper. The paper also changes as the story develops; starting with a rough grey-ish paper it ends on a highly glossy one. Quite cool and poignant.
Projects like this make my heart beat faster. They make my eyes bigger and my feet itch. They make me feel jealous in a good way. Ever since I was a little girl and saw photos of wars, artists, musicians, exotic places and vast open plains, I wanted to be there too.
I can understand people who are slightly monomaniacal about certain things. Who basically really just want one thing: to read all the books in the world, or to see all the art that was created, to climb all mountains or to sail all oceans just because they are there, just because you can. And just because it would make you sad if you didn’t.

In an interview with NRC Handelsblad this Saturday Kadir chatted about his project on migration in the Americas (for more information: www.viapanam.org) as well as being a modern-day photographer. He explained that he’ll be adding videos as well as blog posts to his website. The reason for doing so is that he feels that in about 5 years time photographers won’t be able to make a living from photography alone. I think he’s right. Somehow you need to be a better photographer than you already are, and you also have to diversify and be able to make videos and preferably be a good writer (blogger) at the same time.

It’s quite something you have to do.  A little frightening even but also very exciting. It’s exciting as all those elements, video making, interviews, writing and exhibitions are part of my project.
So while I sit here watching the rain and type this, I am re-editing the sponsorship application in my head. The idea is still the same. The idea is still to see to travel, to take photographs, to laugh and see new things while driving through those vast open plains or highly populated cities. The only difference is that now I have a cool and realistic plan to make it happen. And it has to happen. Not just because it’s cool or it seems like fun. No just because I would be sad if I didn’t, but because it would make me feel alive when I do:)

Sick of Goodbye’s

While I am sitting here in bed feeling sorry for myself because I have a case of tonsilitis, a fever *and* it’s raining outside, I figured this as good a time as any to blog about something. Btw if you like a hilarious read you really should check out groupiemom’s blog from time to time. She blogs about Pofadder:)

We went to the TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) this weekend gone and I saw some amazing art. Naturally, the one big Rembrandt portrait was amazing and a big crowd pleaser. I also got to see Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Käthe Kollwitz, Munch, loads of Miro, Picasso’s and Renoir’s. Then there’s the endless amount of diamonds, asian art, furniture, Russian religious icons, snuff bottles, Karel Appel, Lucebert and more, more, more. I probably only got to see 30% of what was on display. Dazzling.

I was very pleased to see quite a lot of photography yet a little bit bummed that some galleries had the big names but not very interesting work of said big names. Like this portrait of Clinton by Annie Leibovitz that probably worked really well along side an interview in a magazine, but seeing it on a wall was a bore. Anyway, I also got to see an awesome portrait of Chuck Close and color photographs by Ansell Adams (not a fan, sacrilege according to most, I’m sure ) And then I moved upstairs and yay, Dennis Hopper, Steichen, Man Ray and Robert Frank. And man, I love those!

I really like Robert Frank’s earlier documentary style (and Walker Evans inspired) work, he was friends with Kerouac and Ginsberg but I *really* am a huge fan of his later, far more personal work. Robert Frank is a Swiss born photographer who moved to the U.S.A. after WWII. Starting out as a fashion photographer for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, he moved into documentary photography along the way. Frank took his family on a string of road trips over a period of two years and took thousands of photographs which lead to his classic publication ‘The Americans’. Gripped by the contrast of 1950’s optimism vs class differences and racism, Frank took gritty black & white photos that were not favorably accepted by the public at first.

  In fact, Popular Photography Magazine said that Frank’s images were “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness.” Fortunately, the introduction made by Kerouac helped the book to “stay alive” and it is now considered an important body of work for art historians and sociologists alike. Sociologist Howard S. Becker wrote about ‘The Americans’:
“Robert Frank’s (…) enormously influential The Americans is in ways reminiscent both of Tocqueville’s analysis of American institutions and of the analysis of cultural themes by Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. Frank presents photographs made in scattered places around the country, returning again and again to such themes as the flag, the automobile, race, restaurants—eventually turning those artifacts, by the weight of the associations in which he embeds them, into profound and meaningful symbols of American culture.”

 To me though, it is his later, personal work that I love best. Robert Frank’s son Pablo was diagnosed with schizophrenia and later committed suicide in a mental hospital, a few years after his daughter Andrea had died in a plane crash. When you look at his later work, you feel the photos are his way of lending a voice to these feelings of dark and insurmountable loss. A way of communicating with the world, or perhaps just with himself. Perhaps, he is just trying to create order. Frank mainly shows objects, still lives or landscapes and often as composites of 2, 4 or 6 photos or with writing or scratching on it, but to me they are more personal than when he would given us a portrait.  

“Quality doesn’t mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That’s not quality, that’s a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy – the tone range isn’t right and things like that – but they’re far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he’s doing, what his mind is. It’s not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It’s got to do with intention.”  Elliott Erwitt

I remember this massive exhibition of his work at the MACBA in Barcelona and I was moved to tears. The exhibit was set up chronologically which worked well for me as you can really follow the change in his work. I visited the exhibition with my awesome friend Eva who merely “liked” the exhibit and I got a little irritated “like, like what do you mean you just like it?!” I told her a bit about his personal life and then she walked through the entire exhibition again which I thought was very cool, and changed her mind:) I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but to me you do need to know a bit about this photographer’s live to really feel the unspeakable, the intention and the loss. Some may argue that if he was truly great you wouldn’t need the extra information but let’s agree to disagree on that:)

Robert Frank lives in Nova Scotia.

Images: Francis Bacon Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X Painting 1953 | Chuck Close Self Portrait 1967/68 | Women at a Diner by Robert Frank, taken from The Americans | Cover for Frank’s The Americans | The man himself Robert Frank by Marc Trivier | Allen Ginsburg and Robert Frank by I don’t know who

Applied Science

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for a while now but nothing comes out. Guess I don’t have a whole lot to say these days. I’ve seen a couple of movies, listened to a bit of live music, went to a museum and that’s about it. I meet up with friends in Utrecht every so often and try to house sit for friends as often as I can. What I do do with my time? Good question. Work, putting myself out there, trying to build contacts, relationships and get work. And run. I should say “jog” though as I have the speed of a turtle. I ran 7.2 kms the other day though:)  
 
OK so… on the downside I learned that I won’t be taken part in FotoFestivalNaarden and that the editors at Hollands Diep (magazine) really like my photography but that Cape Town is too far removed from their reader’s perception that they said “no” to my work regardless of liking it. I have come up with half-baked ideas about working in Dubai as I thought it would a great place to make some money fast. Friends of friends that live in Dubai have been very kind and helpful in providing me with information and sharing their experiences, but I guess I should have thought about it more before I opened my mouth.
 
Oh and I really hate the foam that floats on top of Senseo coffee. Come to think of it, I hate Senseo coffee.
 
On the upside, however, I have sold a few landscape images to a new design & art shop. They will be using these images as wallpaper on their site linking back to my own website. Kind of like they do on the WeTransfer website, I suppose. Right now the guys are focussing on getting the online store running but they aim to have a proper art gallery someday in the near future. I finally finished a 50 year wedding anniversary shoot about a week ago, and the guys at a copy writing agency have linked me successfully to a new client and I will be shooting 6 portraits for them. The idea was that if I do the first shoot well, I get the next 5 as well. It’s for a bi-monthly in-house magazine and I am quite stoked to be doing this. And I have already been booked for 3 shoots next month. Nice:) They are all very different ranging from a corporate shoot to casting photos to a private couple shoot.
 
I met up with Ingrid from www.gosouthafrica.nl in Amsterdam last week and she was very helpful in providing me with contacts in SA and I *finally* forwarded some images from the Verity shoot to Hip Hop clothing. They were so kind in lending us clothes for the shoot and I thought they’d might like to see what we did. I also learned that Strato Wear and Verity Price will be using my photos for their newly designed websites and yay, miss S.A. Partridge will use one of my portraits as the back cover shot for her new book. All to be revealed later this year. Woop:)  Speaking of projects that will be revealed later on; an interesting proposal just popped in to my mailbox two days ago about showcasing my work in Cape Town and am very pleased to say that I am now officially a StoryTraveler. Very cool and I can’t wait to do a first project with them. It will have to wait till I find myself on the southern hemisphere again but still, very excited. You should check them out when you have the time. 
 
In the mean time I am applying for a position at Noorderlicht, a very cool international photo festival on documentary photography and I am still trying to come to an agreement regarding the two broken frames from my Swimming Upstream exhibition. I have sent countless emails and even called them last week. “We will get back to you and let you know as soon as possible”. Yup. Sure. Since December 2010. Nice.
 
So what’s with the list of what you have done, of yes’ and no’s? Who cares? I dunno. I guess I am trying to see if all those teachers and professors in my life were right. All of them always said I could go far if I applied myself and would just stop staring out that window. That magical window; where things happen, where I feel alive and where I am happy. I am hoping that while I am applying myself and logging those mythological 10,000 hours that are said to be needed to hone your skill, I am also secretly sculpting that one brick that will smash that window.. forever.
 
For once in my life I hope my teachers were right:)
I really like the new Alamo Race Track album, ‘Unicorn Loves Deer’. I tried to find a clip for the Black Cat John Brown song but couldn’t find one that I liked. Different one instead, The Killing